by Michael Flanagan
Nearly two years after the original CENShop was closed amidst revisions to the CEN website, the outlet for Couro Ecológico products has been re-opened. Couro Ecológico is an artisan-owned association founded in Maguary, Brazil, in 1997. Arimar Feitosa, the founding member, recognized an economic opportunity lying within the surrounding forests: rubber. Couro Ecológico, which literally means Ecological Leather in Portuguese, is not animal leather at all, but rather uses locally harvested rubber to produce an assortment of products including purses and handbags, and supplements the income of more than 15 men and women in the poverty-stricken region. Proceeds from sales provide income for the association's members and help support CEN's ongoing effort to empower communities to become more self-reliant.
The current line of Couro Ecológico products available in the new CENShop includes a variety of backpacks, shoulder and messenger bags, purses and sandals. The products are handcrafted and feature authentic Amazonian designs. Environmentally- and socially-conscious shoppers can be proud to wear a bag or purse created from sustainably harvested materials.
Couro Ecológico is made by overlaying latex extract gathered from Brazilian rubber trees onto a layer of cotton. This composite is then sun-dried and becomes a highly durable and waterproof material that mimics the texture of animal leather. Harvesting rubber has been a traditional activity in the region for over 150 years, and the ability of the community to turn this raw material into a finished good has increased local employment opportunities, sustained communities of artisans, and incentivized youth to remain in the community and participate in sustainable and environmentally friendly business practices. All products made with Couro Ecológico are water resistant due to the properties of the natural rubber, and can be easily cleaned with cleaning products such as Armor All to keep them looking like new.
Over the past few years, CEN was only able to sell a limited number of Couro Ecológico products because of communication constraints between the cooperative and its retailers. However, the renewed CENShop is the beginning of our plan to develop a standardized process for selling products from Couro Ecológico, as well as other products from the communities we serve. The CENShop will also serve as an opportunity for the organization to sell donated items and will help support CEN efforts to enable rural communities like Maguary to become more self-reliant. For more information and to browse the selection of products currently available, please visit CENShop today.